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UKCG-NSCC merger would 'complete the picture'

The UK Contractors Group and National Specialist Contractors’ Council last week announced that they would explore the possibility of a merger after UKCG director Stephen Ratcliffe steps down in the summer.

The proposed merger between two of the construction industry’s biggest trade bodies would help major contractors connect with their supply chain and “complete the picture”, according to one of the organisation’s leaders.

Mr Ratcliffe told Construction News that UKCG, the bulk of whose current membership is made up of tier one contractors, wants to broaden out its appeal to smaller companies and subcontractors.

“We value their membership because it’s great to have the supply chain who can help decide the most practicable way of delivering things sitting around the table,” he said.

“That’s why we’ve always encouraged supply chain trade associations to join.

“[The merger] is completing the picture: we will hopefully have another 30 trade associations in membership, so would be picking up a larger chunk of the supply chain – in particular on the building side.”

An initial decision on whether a merger will go ahead is expected to be made by both sides later this month.

The UKCG board will examine the proposals in March before a final members’ vote is taken at the group’s annual conference in June.

A senior figure at another trade body said that, although there could be “some grumblers” among NSCC members, the move reflects the direction major firms are moving in terms of relationships with the supply chain.

“The main contractors are taking major steps of trying to work better with their supply chain,” the source said.

“They’re trying to get away from the old adversarial style. In many ways this demonstrates that they’re paying more attention to the way they work, to move to a way that works for everyone.

“There will be people on the edges who say ‘I don’t like the look of this’, but those people will be in the minority.”

If the merger goes ahead, it is likely that current NSCC chief executive Suzannah Nichol would take over the combined organisation.

An industry insider described Ms Nichol as “very sharp”, adding that, if she left the organisation she has fronted for 12 years, she would “do nothing that leaves a bad taste” with members.

Specialist Engineering Contractors’ Group chief executive Rudi Klein agreed that a merger “sounds like a logical development”, but added that there could be “tensions” with some NSCC members over issues such as payment terms.

“If there was to be a problem going forward on this, it could come from some of the NSCC members,” Mr Klein said.

“On the part of the specialists there could well be some tensions on things where they are not quite at one with the main contractors, like payment.”

But Mr Klein stressed that a merger was “a good thing overall”.

He added: “Because you’ve got all the building trades coming under one roof, it reflects a certain synergy.”

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